Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Fried Modhakams for Ganesh Chathurthi

Food and festivals are part of Indian tradition. Every festival has its own special dish that would be cooked, offered to the Gods and consumed. While the lunch menu by itself is more elaborate, the neivedhyams, the offerings are extra and unique to each festival. Ganesh Chathurthi is just about few days to go.
This festival is celebrated all over the country with much fervour. As part of offering  for Ganesha, modhakam, a sweet dish made of rice flour with sweetened coconut filling is something every household makes. This deep fried version, that I have here, is also quite delicious. It is convenient too for they can be made ahead and stored.
With the children away from home, the festivals are low key affair. Cooking big meals for just two  seems pointless. This is the case with me and my sisters.This year both of my sisters have other commitments. They have to plan something simple, yet not stray from tradition. My mother suggested the fried modhakams for neivedhyam along with some fruits. I thought it would be a great idea for my daughter. She is yet to learn celebrating festivals on her own. It would be better to start with simpler stuff.
During the first few years of my marriage, my mother would write long letters that will give detailed procedures to conduct a festival in its spirit. She would write recipes also, even though I had  cookbooks to guide. However many books I may have had, I would, follow her directions and recipes. I am trying to do the same with my daughter. The other day she had asked me to keep myself available on the day before the festival, to guide her through.This post is one such that gives her a recipe to make and offer.

Fried Modhakams:
Makes 15 medium sized modhakams.

For the covering dough:
1/3 cups all purpose flour/ maida
1/4 cup semolina/rawa (I use a fine variety one, but regular Bombay Rawa works well too)
A small pinch of salt
1 teaspoon coconut oil

For the Coconut poornam filling:
1 cup packed freshly grated coconut
2/3 cup packed powdered jaggery
pods from 5 whole cardamoms crushed

Oil for deep frying

Making the Coconut poornam
Take the powdered jaggery on a heavy bottom pan. Add 1/3 cup of water to it and place the pan on heat.
When the jaggery has just about dissolved, strain it through a wire mesh strainer to remove impurities.
Clean the pan and transfer the jaggery solution back to it. Place this on the stove and boil the jaggery down to a soft ball syrup.
At this point the solution will be bubbling all over with a few large bubbles here and there. If you take a little of the solution and tilt the ladle from a short height, thick syrup will flow off the ladle.
Add the coconut to the syrup.
Stir it in to blend with the syrup. In about 5 -7 minutes, the poornam will thicken with a light hiss.
Stir in the powdered cardamom and toss around for about 2 minutes longer.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
When the poornam has cooled enough, you may be able to gather it in a ball and it will be sticky to feel.
The poornam can be made ahead and stored.

Making the dough:
Take the coconut oil in a container and place it in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. It will obtain a semi solid texture like ghee.
In a bowl, add the maida, rawa and salt and whisk to mix them well.
Take the coconut oil from the refrigerator and with light strokes of the tips of your fingers, rub it into the flour mix. Allow it to mix thoroughly.
Add sufficient water to the above mix and make a slightly stiff dough.
Cover and keep aside for about twenty minutes.
Knead the dough well to make it pliable. I drop the dough in the jar of my Indian mixer-grinder and run it for a good minute to make it pliable. if you are making more in quantity, you might use the processor or the kneading hooks fitted to the hand mixer.

Shaping and frying the modhakams:
Divide the dough in 15 portions.Roll each in a ball and place it in the bowl covered while working on one portion.
Roll out the small balls in circular discs. Keep the rolled out discs covered too.
Once all the dough has been rolled out, place about two teaspoons of the filling in the centre of each disc.
Using a cotton bud, brush a little water along the edges of the dough.
Gather the edges in a pleated manner towards the top, covering the filling completely. Pinch the dough tightly closed at the top.
Work on all of the dough in the same manner.
Meanwhile, place the oil in a frying pan and put it on heat.
When the oil is hot, gently slide the shaped modhakams into it in small batches and deep fry until well fried,
Remove with a slotted lalde draining the oil and place on kitchen tissues if needed.
Allow to come to room temperatue and store in airtight containers.

These keep well for about four to five days. They will be crisp on the first day and the next, after which they may be a bit softer, not saggy or chewy yet.

These are offered to Ganapathy on many occasions, not just on this festival. they also make for a good sweet snack.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Filled, rolled, sliced and shaped dinner rolls -We Knead to Bake 20

The Indian Food Bloggers Meet, that took place on the 1st and 2nd of August 2014, had kept most of us busy making travel plans and shopping for friends. The excitement was enough to keep me away from most routine things. If I say so, you might well imagine the state the organizers would have been. Thus Aparna, this group's mentor, was very busy with the arrangements for the IFBM 2014, being one of the four, who made that happen.
She sent us a message on the group's page: "here's what we are going to do for August. We will bake a savoury, stuffed and decoratively shaped bread. So your bread must be SAVOURY, must be FILLED with a filling of your choice and it must be a decoratively SHAPED bread. The "decoration" could be any simple shape (not round or loaf-like) bit maybe a braid, or a braided round or any shape of your choice that is not that of ordinary bread.
And the recipe is entirely upto you.
Having said, she gave us a free reign to choose and bake the bread. However, I am very used to having my notes ready, handed down with pictures and all from Aparna, and was at a loss to even look up. Finally this bread I zero-ed in was quite an easy one.The given recipe was a chocolate filled one, I changed it to a savoury one and did the adjustments in the recipe to suit us.

I only wish I had more patience in making the shapes, it was still looking fine and tasted excellent. This has given my ego a boost that I can alter a recipe and make necessary adjustments to present a good tasting bread. I might want to tread a little further in future and choose something that is more challenging to bake.

I have used the Bombay sandwich spread, store purchased one as the filling. You may choose to make pestos, other chutneys too. The possibilities can be much more interesting.
Now the recipe:

Chutney filled, rolled, sliced to shape dinner rolls

Recipe adapted from Foodiva's Kitchen - A Beautiful Mess - Chocolate Filled Brioche Rolls

The recipe makes 8 large rolls.

2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups bread flour
2 tablespoons flax seeds powder mixed with 6 tablespoons hot water (or 2 eggs)
2 and 1/4 teaspoon dry instant yeast
50 grams butter melted and cooled
3 tablespoons honey or 80 grams sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt (Increase the salt if your chutney is not very salted. Mine was way too salty, hence the low salt)
200 millilitres warm milk
1 tablespoon cooking rose water (optional)
2 generous tablespoons ready made mint-coriander chutney spread
Milk for brushing
few teaspoons white sesame seeds to sprinkle on top of the rolls

To top your rolls with:

Melted butter for brushing

I chose to knead by hand, but if you are to use a processor, it will make kneading easier.
Mix the flours salt and yeast to combine well. Put the sugar in and mix.
Whisk the flax seed and water well and add to it the rose water.
Reserve about 3 teaspoons of the melted butter for brushing on the surface before spreading the filling.
Add the warm milk, the flax seeds mixture and the cooled melted butter to the flour-sugar combine and mix them.
Turn the dough on to a lightly floor dusted work surface and knead it to a dough. The dough shall be soft, pliable and just short of being sticky.
Roll the dough in a round shape. Place it in a large bowl the walls and bottom of which have been coated with a little oil. Turn the dough around, so the oil coats the dough. Cover loosely and keep in a draft free area for a couple of hours until the dough doubles in volume.
Once the dough has developed, take it out of the bowl and divide it in eight portions.

Roll each portion out in a rectangular shape.
Brush a little butter on the surface of the rectangle. Generously paste the chutney over this.
Roll the dough in a tight roll and pinch the seam well.
Place the rolled dough with the seam facing downwards and slash out 1/2 centimetre thick cuts.
Bring two edges together and slightly bend them backwards and towards each other. The cuts will open apart in a fan like shape, with the filling showing through the cuts.
There is a video on how Foodiva made the rolls in the recipe link. Please watch to get the idea.
Place the shaped dough on a parchment lined baking tray. cover with a slightly damp cloth.
Work each portion likewise and arrange them on the baking tray.
Cover loosely and give the dough its second rise for about 30 minutes to 40 minutes.
Brush the tops of the dough with milk.  Sprinkle the sesame seeds over the rolls and press them in gently.
Pre heat your oven to 180 degrees C/ 375 degrees F.
Bake the bread rolls for fifteen minutes until their tops are golden.
Remove from the oven and when still warm, brush the melted butter (listed last in the list of ingredients) over each roll.
Allow the bread rolls to cool on wire racks.

Serve warm with soup or as breakfast.
These are best consumed the day they are made, while you may make them in the evening and serve them for breakfast the next morning. They do stay a day or two longer in a bread bag/ box. You just need to warm them ever so lightly before having them. However, they are best eaten freshly baked.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Apricot Strawberry Mojito for Sparkling Himalayan Mocktail Contest

It has been weeks that we had the gala Indian Food Bloggers Meet, yet there seems no end to possibilities of winning stuff. Some of the sponsors who generously gave away their products to the participants also contributed for prizes for contests held. Some of those contests are yet open to us and we are being tempted to try and win.
One such sponsor Tata Group Sparkling Himalayan announced a contest to recreate their signature mocktails. They had dropped in to the goodies bag, a bottle of  Sparkling Himalayan.

Sparkling Himalayan with its unique, distinct taste is pristine source water with added carbonation.
Have sparkling on the rocks with ice and lemon or mix it up in your own flavour combination!

The contest rules are thus : follow one of the mocktails that Ms. Shatbhi Basu created, give it your own twist and share it. Simple and interesting, isn't it? They also provided us with the few video links to help us.
As part of the above mentioned SPARKLING HIMALAYAN CONTEST, I chose to make the peach apricot mojito. I replaced the peach with fresh strawberries and using fresh apricots to make the juice at home. I added a tiny dash of green chilli and a slice of ginger to give the already sweet, tangy drink a pep with flavours.

It was a dull day with overcast skies that one is not inclined to step out and do any outdoor activity. When the sun made an appearance by mid evening, it was nice to sit out and sip the drink while reading a book.

Apricot strawberry mojito:
Adapted from Ms. Shatbhi Basu's Peach Apricot Mojito

Serves TWO large servings
1 cup Apricot-strawberry juice (I blended the fruits in the blender and strained them)
6 small limes
1 cup sweetened lemonade
2 tablespoons light brown sugar (optional/ if your lime are too sour)
1/2" fresh ginger sliced fine
1 centimeter long piece of green chilli(optional)
1 fist full mint leaves
Lots of crushed ice
1/2 of a bottle of Sparkling Himalayan

For the garnish:
1 sprig fresh mint leaves
Lime rind

To coat the rim of the glasses:
A small wedge of a lime
A few teaspoons powdered sugar

Take two high ball glasses.
Squeeze the wedge of lime over the edges, and dip the rim of the glasses in the powdered sugar. This will coat the rim with sugar. I powdered strawberry flavoured Menthos poppins to coat the rims.
If using fresh fruits, blend them in a blender with some water and strain them. Also squeeze out juice from one lime and mix to the juice. Add sugar to the juice to make it sweet enough. If you happen to use ready and packed juice, this step is not necessary.
Slice the limes in fours.
Slice the ginger thin. And slit the chilli, remove membrane and seeds.We just need a very small slice of it.
Take some wedges of lime in the glass, squeezing the juice and dropping the rind along. This will give that oil and slight bitterness to the drink.
Drop with those half of the ginger and the slice of chilli.
Top this with fresh mint leaves and crush them well using a crusher.
Top the crushed ice all the way up.
Pour into this the fruits juice.
Finally add the Sparkling Himalyan to top it all the way to the rim.

Serve garnished with more mint and a lime rind.
Best served chill and freshly combined. As the ice melts and the flavours dominate, the drink gets more refreshing.
Enjoy adding twists, the possibilities are so many that you will want to try more.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Indian Food Bloggers Meet 2014- what I take back with me

Those of you who follow me on some networking sites would have also seen that I have been actively commenting, liking and retweeting as many posts that show up with the label IFBM 2014.
The first Indian Food Bloggers Meet, in India was an event conceived by four bloggers, Aparna, Arundati, Revatii and Nandita, all of whom have worked hard to make their idea work and have included forty others who write food blogs. The event was held on the 1st and 2nd of August 2014 at the attractive Aloft Bengaluru, Cessna Business Park.
I had already voiced my excitement about being able to attend this Meet. In the same post I had put my thoughts out as to what I looked forward to and what my apprehensions were. Once in the company of those friendly forty others who had registered, my apprehensions were put to rest. Blogging has given me some good friends, a few of whom were also present. The others whom you read about and knew through their blogs and other networking sites were there too. It was great to connect with them face to face and share mutual interests.
There is much to talk about how meticulously the organisers planned this event out. They had put in hours planning and talking to people and sponsors. They had thought it out thoroughly and made each session an experience to nurture. They had hoped to make a recognition for food blogging, what we bloggers as a community look for and strengthen ties.They had planned sessions to help us take what is  hobby bordering on passion to newer levels. I am grateful that they included all of us in that vision.
The first day brought us sessions in food styling by Deeba, whose photographs are something every food blogger wished to present their food. I must admit, though shame faced, that I missed this session stuck in traffic that moved inches while the minutes ran faster. However, there was time enough to catch up and I am looking forward to having a digital copy of her points. Overall, there was an aura of awe soon after, needless to say how the participants felt.
Next session was somewhat familiar to me as I had attended Aparna's basics on food photography. Yet, there was new learning there too with points thrown in from others. Aparna discussed as much as possible in detail, racing against her given 45 minutes and made sure we did not miss anything, however trivial.
This session was followed by KitchenAid India's Masterclass with Chef  Surjan Singh Jolly from JW Marriot. He whipped up two dishes using three KitchenAid appliances. Kitchen Aid India had conducted a contest and prizes were distributed at this point.

Now please allow me to stray a bit and introduce our venue partners, Aloft Bengaluru, Cessna Business Park. As much as our organisers had planned the speeches and interactive sessions, they had put in thought to taking a break and having refreshments. Team Aloft CSB, outdid themselves with each break. We were thoroughly spoilt with choices of refreshments served with a smile. I can only talk about the teas endlessly, for I chose to have servings of all they had to offer, giving up on the food. The lunch on the first day was an array of chaats beautifully laid out giving one the experience of having it somewhere in the corner of a street. I may have well slept through the next session after this meal, but for some more refreshing flavoured tea.

Lunch was followed by Nandita's thoughts on harnessing the power of social media, where she took us through how to make ourselves 'social', what, where and how to go about it. She invited Archana Doshi to share a few of her experiences and give tips on how the tools work.

A wine appreciation and pairing session that Mr. Aneesh Bhasin of Hipcask conducted was next. I sat nursing my tea with no clue of what this was about. For those who know anything about wines that may have been useful when they entertain guests.

It was time for tea and as though the lunch was just a small affair, Aloft brought us along with tea some wonderful Eastern Indian food and flavours.
Deeba interviewed Husna Rahaman on her Spice sorcery a story that is food centric and a family traditional one at that.

Next morning it was one of the most awaited sessions; trapping the SEO. Mr. Asish Verma took us through tools that you may optimise best. A bit more technical than I could quickly follow, he spoke of  plugins, algorithms and such. I apologise for not having much to explain, as I do not intend to make light of such an intense learning opportunity. I am determined to read and take notes from Siri who has so much more insight to it.

Rushina took us through good writing and presentation of your thoughts that can hold the reader captive. She spoke of simple language usage and what is being not followed by many of us. Good writing, use of words to show your connect to the reader are important. Coming from a cookbook author, this point is to be taken well.


Aparna Jain was our next guest speaker who told us how to self publish a book, if you intend to. what to do and what not to expect, how to keep it all within your control and limited capacity were her key thoughts.That she did with some light hearted fun, the session was well received.

The panel discussion that followed was very useful, as one could easily relate to the people on it and their stories. They were ones who started blogging, like me, simple and on a hope of good time pass and hobby, and have successfully nurtured their passion to take it beyond. Sanjeeta, Harini, Ruchira and Ranjini, Rushina, and Kalyan Karmakar,  with Arundati moderating, took us on a discussion on beyond blogging.

Every possibility, and how to turn it to advantage, every hurdle and how to overcome and gain out of it were core topics of this discussion. This session was very participant interactive for there are many of us hoping to make something worthy out of blogging.
A sit down lunch at The Nook was most enjoyable. There was food, food and more food to relish. And if that was not enough we were taken through a Masterclass on Western Cooking by Chef Sameer Luthra.

Team Aloft led by their General Manager Mr. Faiz Alam Ansari, were commendable in their hospitality. A big thanks is due to them.
Many thanks are due to all of the sponsors who generously gave away goodies in form of food and food related stuff that we were overwhelmed. I may be cooking and blogging them in my next few posts. This generosity was quite humbling.

In all, these two days were a  upward trajectory on my learning curve, yet a fun one at that.
I acknowledge with thanks the awesome four people who just made it happen and the other participants who showed much comradeship. The two days were educative with all of us pooling ideas in.  We have evolved as a community, a voice and we are food bloggers.
Our Facebook and Twitter pages have updates that we are losing count of reading and commenting. There are more fun pictures, good pictures (I apologise for some poor quality ones in this post) that of the participants, guest speakers, venue and the food. Check out the Indian Food Bloggers Meet page on facebook for many updates.